“It’s something I look forward to every year, it’s a lovely ceremony.”  This is how Tim Fagan, chairperson of Tamlaght Community Association feels of attending The Good Samaritan Service, hosted as part of the Annual Black Santa Christmas Sit-Out.

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“I was aware of the Black Santa every year as it was on the news,” says Tim.  However, it wasn’t until a suggestion that the organisation apply that he made contact with the Cathedral.  “I rang the Cathedral and asked them to send out an application form.  I filled it in, sent it off and never thought anything more of it but then we soon got the letter to say that we had been successful and inviting us, which we were very surprised about, to go up to the Cathedral and accept the money.”


For Tim and the team at Tamlaght Community Association, the funds received enables them to start putting plans in motion.  “It allows us the freedom to start organising things, otherwise we would have to scrimp and save.  We can do something a little bit more special, we have started taking the older people out to hotels and restaurants for a meal.  In the past we have organised a bus for the younger people to take them out for the day.  We have also arranged Christmas and halloween parties.”


Whilst COVID has meant that some traditions, such as the trip out to Christmas lunch for the elderley, have had to be cancelled this year, the community at the heart of this organisation has not been forgotten.  “We are going to get them vouchers instead for food and, hopefully, when this calms down next year we can take them out then.


We did do something during the summer, we had entertainers come to Tamlaght doing some singing and dancing.  We were able to do it in an outdoor space, socially distanced and it meant that people were able to get out of the house, out of isolation and see other people.”


Small Organisation with a Large Impact

Tamlaght Community Association has been in operation for 20 years and Tim believes the success is down to the quality of the volunteers.  “We have seen other community organisations started and fall by the wayside because people aren’t interested or don’t want to volunteer.  That isn’t the case for us as we have very dedicated volunteers.  Everybody has their own role, everybody does it very well, nobody shoulders most of the burden and they are very dedicated and imaginative staff.


We are a very small organisation and sometimes think we don’t have much of an impact so we need to take a step back and see that it does make an impact and it is something to be very proud of.  When taking the families out with the children, I remember one parent saying to me that she had a great time and she thought it was very special as it gave her some time with her daughter without demands from the younger children.  She really appreciated that and she felt that it really benefited her and her daughter.  When you get feedback like that, despite all the organisational headaches, it makes it really worthwhile.”


A Humbling Experience


Tim is very aware that economical situations have an impact on the donations and is always overwhelmed by the amounts raised.  “It reflects the generosity of the people of Belfast and of Northern Ireland as a whole, their selflessness and the fact that they are so willing to donate to a good cause.  We go up to the ceremony every year and wonder if anybody gave anything, with austerity, but we are always taken aback when he announces the total that was raised.


It’s great to see the breadth of the charity work within Northern Ireland and in the Cathedral.  It’s very humbling to see and it is very humbling to be a part of it.”